Mumford and Sons at Sound Academy, Toronto – Concert review, photos and artistic interpretations

November 16, 2010
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Mumford and Sons at Sound Academy, Toronto, 13 November 2010 - photo by Brian Banks, Music Vice, All Rights Reserved

THE GIG: Mumford & Sons
WHERE: The Sound Academy, Toronto, ON
WHEN: 13 November 2010
IN ONE WORD: Overcrowded

Mumford & Sons, the four-piece folk rock behemoth from Blighty, danced against the lights on stage while playing to a rumbustious crowd. Adoring girls screamed and swooned while boys whooped and hollared, as people got drunk and happy and groups of friends made new friends as they linked arms over shoulders to jump together in support of the band with a name like a family-owned hardware store. Or at least, the lucky ones did… those inside the magical happy square of floor-space at Sound Academy where you can actually see and hear everything.

I get it.

Recently, whenever I’ve posted a review on a show at Sound Academy, there have been comments or emails from fans at the show who were pissed off because they did not have a great concert experience: see here or here. So – without taking anything away from Mumford and Sons, whose performance lived up to the previous reports I’d heard – let’s talk about the issue.

At this concert, more than any other I’ve ever attended at this venue, I came to realize exactly why so many of Toronto’s concert-going faithful love to loathe the Sound Academy. Yes, the location (down by the docks), is not convenient – though the view across the waterfront of the city skyline often makes up for it, in my opinion – and there are other issues with Sound Academy, like the airport-level security at the entrance and the ridiculously long queue that they create. But the main gripe people have against the Sound Academy is the fact that the venue layout, essentially a rectangle but with the stage at the narrow end, is so ill-conceived that hundreds of fans find themselves squeezed out into the overflow edges at the side and back of the venue where both the sight and sound of the performance is greatly diminished. If you’re not in the aforementioned “Magical Happy Place”, TM, as so lovingly an yet ineptly illustrated below by yours truly, then your concert experience is severly diminished – unless you’re masking your emotions with overpriced beer.

Sound Academy Toronto - the "Magical Happy Square" - by Brian Banks, Music Vice

This show was so overcrowded that at one point I found myself in the middle of a human traffic jam at the bottleneck between the left-side bar and the edge of the fenced area where the mixing console is set-up: a girl behind me screamed, “What’s the hold up?! If I don’t get to the washroom in a minute I’m going to piss myself right here!” Spurned on by the complaints of the girl with the bladder control of a toddler, I somehow managed to cut a line through the immovable chunks of people. I reached the relative safety of less-populated space in the spill-over area left of the stage, towards the exit, and sighed with relief of regaining some of my personal space back. I would later find myself again in this area near the exit doors as, after photographing the band, I joined a couple hundred people in the same ‘vantage spot’, I watched just over half of Mumford and Sons set before getting bored of hearing the poor spill-through sound and seeing the band on stage from a two-dimensional,  side-on view.

As a member of the press, I am one of those lucky buggers who get’s stage-side access for a few songs as I photograph the band, so I get to experience concerts from the up-close-and-personal viewpoint. But for the rest of the show, I’m in the crowd like everyone else. It’s not a sudden realization that Sound Academy has it’s faults, but at this show, as I stood looking on I felt so distant from the show that it was not a fun experience; or anything like a concert experience should be. So, for those of you have wrote and commented in the past about your misgivings of the Sound Academy; consider the issue publicly addressed.  This is no reflection on the actual staff at Sound Academy, who I always find professional and courteous, but I will agree wholeheartedly with the voices of Toronto’s gig-going masses that things could be a lot better. Sooner or later, surely some kind of revamp must be made to this venue, but for now my only advice will be to make sure you arrive early enough to find yourself in my now trademarked Magical Happy Place.

© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice

Pictures of Mumford and Sons at Sound Academy:

Related internet links:
Mumford and Sons
Brian Banks Photography

Brian Banks

Editor and Founder, Music Vice Magazine. Writer. Photographer. Poet. From Scotland. Not Ireland. Proudly based in Toronto, Canada. Rock N' Roll Don't Pay The Rent... 

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4 Responses to Mumford and Sons at Sound Academy, Toronto – Concert review, photos and artistic interpretations

  1. Rachel on November 16, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Lol,your sketch is so funny!! “Different time zone” rofl

  2. Laura Antonelli on November 16, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    This made me laugh a lot! I really wanted to go to this show but when I found out it was at the Sound Academy I decided against it because I have only heard horror stories about that venue and refuse to go there. So it seems funny to me that your review ends up pin-pointing everything wrong with that place!

    The picture you drew is absolutely hilarious. “So far from the stage you may need to adjust your watch – different time zone!” haha.

    Sorry you did not have that great of a time. Hopefully next time they come back to a better venue!

  3. Alison on November 18, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    By the time my sister in the UK emailed me to go check out this band it was too late as the tix were already sold, so I thought I would look around for a review of their performance to see how it went. It is a shame you actually didn’t get a chance to review the music content of the Mumford & Sons show, and judging by the few photos you managed to squeak in it looks like you barely had time to focus as they were not too great. However I am thoroughly entertained by your article above and whole-heartily agree with your comments on the S.A. having attended a show or two there in the past. Even in the “Magical Happy Zone” of the pit at Ontario Place (M.A.) there is still plenty of room to move back and breathe….same goes for the Phoenix…at least they have an upper level vantage point to view a show if the MHZ is too crowded for your liking!!! Thank you Brian, you are now a flagged Favourite!

  4. mich on November 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    This is genius!!! Brian, thanks so much for saying what the rest of us are thinking.

    p.s enjoyed your tweet on the support act – “Some beardy dudes called Cadillac Sky are playing the soundtrack to Willow on stage at Sound Academy. Or something like that.” 😀

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